What a difference a week can make. After looking clumsy and out of sorts for a majority of their 3-1 loss to NYCFC, the Montréal Impact looked like their new, old selves on Saturday, as they defeated the high-flying Orlando City SC by a score of 2-0.
It wasn’t all perfect of course, with the visitors coming close to scoring early on in the contest through crosses from the wings. In that vein, I was not altogether impressed with the return of Bakary Soumare in central defense, especially early on. He appeared to be late to react on a couple of those aforementioned crosses, leaving Ciman one-on-one with an attacker in the box.
Ciman the saviour
It was a bit of the theme all night long, with an Orlando player finding himself with the ball in and around the box, only for the Belgian star to tackle it or sweep it away. He was far and away the best player on the pitch all night long, constantly making key tackles and interceptions in dangerous scoring areas. Orlando didn’t have a ton of chances per say, but a lot of that was down to last-ditch tackles by Ciman.
Meanwhile the offence, though much better than last week, could have been a whole lot better in the final third. It reminded me of games last year that IMFC would end up losing because their defense couldn’t hold onto a slim lead. The big difference this year is that they have one of the best CB’s in the league to stop that from happening. Still, Saturday’s contest was an example of a game that should have been put to bed way before Oduro tucked home the insurance goal.
Piatti, the enigmatic one
I hate to point out the same thing every week, but watching Piatti play in the middle is hugely frustrating. He creates space and shakes off defenders wonderfully, but rarely picks out or makes the right pass when the opportunity arises. There was at least one clear-cut opportunity where he could have passed to a wide-open McInerney for what looked like a tap-in, but instead decided to cut back and shoot through two defenders and the keeper.
I can deal with Romero holding on to the ball too long and deciding to shoot instead of passing because he plays the wing, and crossing is not exactly his forte. But when you play in the middle and your striker is wide open and you don’t pass, I find that unacceptable. Especially when said striker has a knack for putting away point blank chances. If McInerney scores there, the game is all but over.
Donadel, Reo-Coker shine
Elsewhere, the DM pairing of Donadel and Reo-Coker probably had their best game of the season as a tandem. Both were energetic, made quick, intelligent plays on the ball, and seemed focused on the task at hand throughout the contest. Neither of them is a destroyer in midfield, but both are very capable box-to-box ball movers. When tackling is not your bread and butter, you have to make up for it with energy and superior positioning, and both Donadel and Reo-Coker were much better in that regard on Saturday.
I’m also more and more impressed with Tissot as a winger. He may not be as technically adept as say a Duka or Piatti, but he makes quick, smart decisions with the ball, and rarely puts his team in a bad spot defensively. Like with Mallace and Lefèvre, it’s really nice to see Academy players mature into solid pros.
Training ground creativity?
Last but not least, it was really nice to see something interesting attempted on a free kick. Obviously the goal off of the corner was a gem, but that didn’t really come out of nowhere. I’ve been saying all year that Donadel has been putting in good, curling corners into the box in various spots (near post, middle, far post) and it was just a matter of time that someone would shake their defender and get a good header on the ball.
On the other hand, Donadel's free kick early on that Ciman almost got a boot on, finally looked like something conceived on the training ground. It shouldn’t have taken 12 games to figure out that a little creativity was needed on set-piece situations, but better late than never. Everyone was taken by surprise, most of all Impact fans no doubt, when two runners (Ciman and McInerney) got in behind the defense to potentially flick home Donadel’s nicely weighted throughball.
With the likes of Oduro and Piatti drawing free kicks with ease, it’s vital for the Impact to take advantage of set piece situations. So hopefully Saturday’s attempts are the beginning of a trend and not just an anomaly in that respect.
At the end of the day the Impact sit in 5th place in the Eastern Conference standings with the 3rd best points per game average. For all the things the team could improve on, I’d say that things are definitely looking up.
All we need to do now is sign Andrea Pirlo. Or not… ;)